VERSUS URSUS have recently released a new EP and music video. Currently working on their full length album due to be released in late 2013 the band will be on tour in October. Here’s my introduction to the band, an interview conducted a few days ago.
The band borrows from a wide range of influences when constructing their sonic palette. You’ll hear traditional punk, hard rock and metal all mixed up with more avant-garde areas of music. Learn more about their history, re-naming the band, performing live, and a lot more from our conversation below.
Hey, guys! It’s been some time since I last interviewed a band producing such playful and pukish music, ya know? Haha! Let’s start off with your name. What kind of a crazy nick is VERSUS URSUS? :)
Hey IDIOTEQ! Why thank you, I’m pleased to see you picked up on the slightly ADHD nature of our music ha ha. The story behind the name is very long so I will try to be as quick as possible. This band started in 2010 under a different name that was unfortunately quite popular with all sorts of other artists Rap, Cheesy Metal etc. as a result of this we sometimes got in to a few issues such as promo materials for a fat American band with the same name as us appearing on shows we were playing, which as you can imagine was hilarious but at the same time very annoying! After running in to these issues a few too many times we decided we wanted a name so unique no one else would even consider using it. Hence ‘VERSUS URSUS’ I’ll leave the exact origins a mystery as I think it’s more fun that way. Someone I was talking to about it at a show thought it was a Planet of the Apes reference, which I thought was funny as the name definitely has nothing to do with General Ursus.
Haha! Nice one. The only PHARAOH I really knew and actually like very much is A389’s PHARAOH :)
Having listened to that I think it’s probably the best other ‘PHARAOH’ I have heard! The are about 2 – 3 acts in i-tunes etc.. called PHARAOH so you can see why the change came about. It also coincided with the a recent line up change and we felt like it was the right time to step away from the old name and come up with something more original and as it turned out something weirder sounding.
Did you change your approach to making music along with the new name? Is there something more or different you’re reaching for now?
As with any line up change getting a new drummer definitely influenced the way were writing but I wouldn’t say that it dramatically changed our direction. I think as time has progressed our music naturally seems to have been getting more adventurous in terms of time signatures and song structures. We are still reaching for the same thing we always have which is to write music that we want to listen to, that translates both on record and in a live situation. When we play live we want to play music that has a physical impact on people, we want to see everyone moving. I think that energy and communication with the crowd is the most important part of our live show.
What’s your experience been with playing live? How is your local scene when it comes to gigs and all kinds of DIY events?
Reading as a town does have a few decent venues and there is always live music going on which is good in a sense but in terms of being part of a scene I don’t think we have ever really felt like we fit in anywhere. When we play a metal gigs we tend to be the odd one out because we don’t have a beat down in every 5 seconds of the song and when we play a Rock / Indy gig the fact that we play really hard and get stuck in with the crowd tends to confuse people. Having said that we have met some really great people along the way and not being part of scene as such has forced us to be a bit more creative such as putting on our own nights at venues rather than going through a promoter.
Are there some cool artists we should learn more about?
For sure! I guess the funny thing is that because we don’t really come from a scene as such they sound totally different to us ha ha. Our first drummer from way back in the day is now in a cool Rock / Indy band called SHOOT FOR THE KING that I can only really describe as sounding like NIRVANA meets WEEZER in the best possible way. Another awesome band that we have played with a couple of times that have also been very cool to us in terms of helping us out with shows etc.. are RAGWEED a kind of grungy / punky band from Brighton.
Ok, so let’s g back to day one. Where did you get the idea for this band and how do you label your music?
That’s a really interesting question because the way the band turned out was definitely not what I had planned from the outset. I initially wanted to do something way more techy with a really heavy screaming vocalist think CONVERGE/DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN/EVERY TIME I DIE type stuff ha ha. But as people joined and the band evolved it kind of became its own entity! John our vocalist does scream a little bit but I think his main strength is really his melodic vocals. So I don’t think at this point we really sound much like the original inspiration for starting the band, which is a good thing I think. It’s better if the members can bring something new in to the mix.
Labelling our music is really something that we try to stay clear of. I think it can be helpful to categorise music in a broad sense so that you know what to expect, for instance when you’re making a mix tape for your 80 year old grandmother you might want to avoid genres such as ‘power violence’. But beyond loosely categorising our self’s as Rock music I’d rather leave it up to other people to decide. I think as soon as you start to consider yourself as part of a particular genre it can be quite limiting as people start thinking about what the rules are for a particular style. I think if anything we try to throw away/burn/destroy the rule book. We have just finished writing our first full length and I think the span of different musical styles the material covers will really demonstrates that approach. We can’t wait to get it recorded and out there!
Will these 2 new tracks be featured on the album? Tell me more about both writing and recording processes. Was it a struggle? :)
Somnambulist will most certainly be on it I’m not sure about Sandstorm, I think the idea behind these two new tracks was to launch the band properly under our new name and almost give people a bit of a teaser for the up and coming full length. In the past I don’t think we have publicised our releases that much but we really wanted to make the effort with the full length as we think it’s going to melt some faces!
The writing process has kind of been a gradual accumulation of songs, I suppose the difference from previous releases is that everyone contributed a lot more and the tracks are far more collaborative. Some of the songs take some very sharp turns one track in particular goes from down tuned heavy as fuck kind of stuff to a spazzy rockabilly kind of thing in no time ha ha. I think because we worked on it collaboratively and we all come from different musical backgrounds it worked out really well and the album will definitely have something for everyone, from really fast straight up punk, more down-tuned groovy kind of stuff and totally bizarre off the wall bits.
We recorded these last two ‘teaser’ tracks our self’s and then got someone to professionally master them. We were so happy with the results that I think the album is going to be done in the same way. We start tracking drums at the end of August so the beast should be finished shortly. When it comes out all depends on mixing/mastering/packaging/promotion etc.. that stuff can take an age to get sorted so we will see.
Who’s helping you out with it?
We are trying to do as much as we can ourselves, so we will tackle the recording, mixing, artwork etc. obviously there are parts of the process we need to work with other people on for example digital distributors, printers. But I suppose the main areas of creative input are all under our control. While it is a lot of work to do it that way I feel like the final product is far more representative of the actual band and it also saves you money!
So, no chance to grab it for free? ;)
Ha ha, not really. It will be on sale to the general public once it’s done we might do a free promotional single. Having said that I’m sure we can sort an esteemed member of the music press such as yourself out with a free advanced copy to have a listen to once it’s recorded ;)
You’ve just played your debut gig in Basingstoke. How was it? Who did you share the stage with?
I suppose that was the first one under our new name! Yeah man it was good, loads of energy. The funny thing was that our singer John got the most ridiculous sunburn on his back (it looked so gross) so he was in loads of pain but that still didn’t stop him jumping in the crowd and getting people involved. We played with a rad band called OFFENDER from Portsmouth.
What are your plans for hitting the road to promote the new stuff?
We will be on tour in south of the UK from 7th – 12th October possibly with some advanced copies of the album but I think the real goal is to just make people aware of who we are and what it is we do so that once it is officially released there are people waiting for it. That’s the focus at the moment but from that point forward I’m sure we are going to be back out playing one off dates and probably doing another short run early 2014.
What does playing live mean to you and how is it different from what one can hear on your albums?
Playing live is such an awesome experience I think it’s simply the most positive way to vent all your anger and aggression. There is nothing quite like thundering through a set and screaming at the top of your lungs to make you feel like everything is wright with the world. I think that is probably one of the reasons we are so active on stage because we like playing our music and it feels good to get in to it and move about. I have never really understood aggressive music where the band just standing there with blank faces, if the music doesn’t have an effect on you personally how can you ever expect it to on anyone else?
In terms of how it differs from recordings I suppose you get the human element every time we play a song we play it different way. I personally always try to change up what I’m playing all the time to keep things different. Nothing huge just playing a lead bit a little different every time or changing guitar effects.
Subtle things aside probably the main difference is that when you see us play live our singer will probably jump in the crowd and try and get you to sing / dance with him or something ha ha.
What experience do you have in this matter? What other bands have you been in?
We have all been in local bands previously but I don’t think any of us have ever been in a band that has played as much as we have or gone where we have. So even though we are just getting started under our new name we are already far ahead of anything I have ever been involved in previously!
Good to hear that. What is the most ridiculous argument you have been in with your band mates? ;)
That’s a great question, I’m trying to think of the one that makes us seem the least dysfunctional and isn’t going to annoy anyone! I think we once had an argument over whether we should play a house party the same day we recorded. I’m talking about literally coming straight out of the studio we had been in for like 8 hours, driving out to this place and setting up at a party. The worst part about it was when we played we got shut a song and a half in and the police turned up… so essentially it was the most pointless exercise ever. Although it does make a good story so I guess it’s good in some ways.
Haha, sure thing! :)
Would you change your name if you lost a few members?
After the amount of time it took to decide on our current name probably not ha ha. I think it really depends on how much the sound changes if we got some new members and then we sounded like a death metal band we would probably change the name, although I can’t really see that happening!
Any other info the people out there should know? Any message you would like to give us before we finish?
I think we covered most of it in the interview. If we could pass on a message to people it would be just be give the tracks we have just put out a listen and make sure to see us live in October if your in the UK and you enjoy a high energy show. It’s going to be great, our singer will make you dance with him and you will probably get a chance to sing.
Alright, buddies. Let’s sum it up then. How is VERSUS URSUS doing these days? What are you cooking up next?
VERSUS URSUS is in good health with lot’s of exciting stuff coming up that we can’t wait to share with everyone. The list is long we have a tour an upcoming album and some videos etc…. it’s gonna melt your face and warp your mind.
Don’t forget about me, fellas! :)
Thanks so much for your time! Take care!
Thank you for the rad interview! I’ll make sure you get a copy of the record to check out once it’s done!
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